House Democrats Urge Leadership to Begin Paid Parental Leave for Feds Early

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A group of 12 lawmakers said the new benefit for federal workers, currently slated for implementation in October, should apply retroactively to December.

House Democrats last week urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to make the recently enacted program granting up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees available to workers sooner than anticipated.

Last December, Congress included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act a provision authorizing 12 weeks of paid leave for federal employees coinciding with the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. The Office of Personnel Management, which is in the process of implementing the policy, has indicated the new benefit will apply in the cases of all births, adoptions and foster placements that occur beginning Oct. 1.

But in a May 8 letter to Pelosi and McCarthy, 12 House Democrats, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., urged them to make the benefit available to federal employees sooner, noting the burden borne by agency workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exacted a devastating mental, emotional and economic toll on families across America, and the levels of stress and anxiety are especially overwhelming for our constituents who are pregnant and praying for safety during this pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote. “[The] October 1, 2020, start date for paid parental leave actually leaves out tens of thousands of federal workers who are pregnant now and expecting before October 1, as well as others who have recently welcomed a new baby.”

Under these lawmakers’ proposal, the paid parental leave benefit would be effective retroactive to Dec. 20, 2019, when Trump first signed the bill. They noted that during the pandemic, the safety net new parents often turn to when they do not have access to paid parental leave is frequently not available.

“We have heard recently from numerous pregnant federal workers who face an array of complex challenges, like not being able to count on family and friends for child care assistance because of social distancing, not being able to find safe and appropriate paid child care in the crisis, and navigating difficult or cancelled doctor visits,” they wrote. “Let us give these people the same support we are offering their colleagues.”

Pelosi is in the midst of working on a new bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic, set for release this week, although it is unclear whether a move to speed up implementation of paid parental leave will be included.